Great Balls of Plasma

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Posted by Rezwan Razani on Aug 21, 2012 at 03:00 PM
What do you think about this? Let us know in the comments below!

Thanks to Glen Wurden of Los Alamos for introducing us to “Free Floating Atmospheric Pressure Ball Plasmas.”

These experiments in ball plasmas were pursued after Dr. Wurden witnessed ball lightning during a storm and enlisted his daughter to reproduce the phenomenon at home.


Image:  CJ Wurden’s long-lived (300-400 msec) plasma orb - rises above a 2-gallon white plastic bucket containing a weak solution of Copper Sulfate salt in water. The green color is due to Cu I emission at 510.6 nm. A delicate thin orange-colored boundary layer, caused by interaction with air, surrounds the ball. Image take with a Nikon D200 camera, 70 mm lens, f16, ISO 100, exposure 1/250th second. The central electrode is dimly visible at the water surface, and insulated wire leads go over the lip of the bucket, to the right.


More info on CJW’s project:

Ball Plasma vs. Ball Lightning

@Oatmeal has a great post about why Nikola Tesla was the greatest geek who ever lived.  The post notes that ball lightning is very rare and says that no scientists have been able to reproduce it in the lab - except Tesla who did so in the 1890s.

Ever Heard of Ball Lightning?

It’s lightning that appears in the form of a sphere and travels slowly while hovering a few feet off the ground.

It’s an extremely rare phenomenon and even today no scientists have ever successfully produced it in the laboratory.

Oh, except Tesla did it back in the 1890s.

When asked if this work with ball plasmas counts as ball lightning, Glen answered:

We argue that it may be an example. Of course, we do it in a laboratory. And yes, it is said that Tesla did it differently back in the 1890’s.

From the Oatmeal:

Image copied with permission.

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